Death is a subject most of us prefer not to talk about — especially our own. For this reason the same holds true for wills. As an attorney though, it is my duty to advise you that making a will is something you ought to face up to — and in this article I am going to tell you why.
A will is a vital instrument in your trove of estate planning tools as you grapple with planning for your family after your death and estate planning is critical as you undertake new responsibilities, acquire new assets or your family structure changes.
In the absence of having a will, the law, by way of the Succession Act 1974, will decide what happens to your real and personal property (your “Estate”). In the event you do not wish your Estate passing to a particular family member (in default of a will) or you wish to ensure it passes to a person or persons, having a will in place will allow you to spell out exactly how your Estate will devolve.
Bermuda’s Judiciary has now taken to publishing an annual report (2012 Annual Report (PDF)). One of the more revealing statistics to emerge for 2012 was that over 3,500 cases were commenced in the Magistrate’s Court by parties who were suing for money they claimed they are owed. Nearly 4,000 cases in one year! A huge number when you consider that this lower court only sets aside two days a week (Wednesday and Friday) to hear these disputes in the first or interlocutory instance. This averages out to 32 cases a day.
It therefore has all the appearances of an active and busy court in a forum that is intended to be relatively quick and user-friendly. Parties are welcome to sue and defend claims in Magistrate’s Court without having to hire a lawyer. Typically, the lower court deals with landlord and tenant disputes, breaches of contract and negligence claims. There is, however, a ceiling on claims — they can be no more than $25,000.
Nevertheless, it may still be helpful to seek the advice of an attorney before you launch a claim or prepare to defend one.
Here’s a guide of what to expect in taking your claim to Magistrate’s Court: